Mitchell: Spirits of southerners during spring break
On our spring break trip to what was supposed to be the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, we had a new experience when requesting directions.
We had come into Jonesboro, Ark., from the south on U.S. 49 for the first time. Wanting to land at the Holiday Inn and being completely unfamiliar with this part of town, we stopped to get directions.
Sue got out of the van and started into a place of business, meeting a Hispanic couple. She asked them if they could provide the directions to the place. The man looked at his wife and said, "Better still, we will take you there." And that's what he did, going a considerable distance, through an upscale part of town right to the motel parking lot. Sue rolled down the window and told the couple to wait just a minute, that we had something for them. At first, he said we didn't owe him anything, but when he discovered he was to sample the first of our That was the first time we had ever experienced a guided trip to a desired location.
It's a certain fact those folks along the Gulf Coast would never trade the part of their past that they have surrendered to hurricanes over the years, but in some ways, they have benefited.
For instance, in the Gulfport-Biloxi area, there are three brand new facilities that are paying big dividends for the area. First, there is a brand new hospital at Keesler Air Force Base, then there is a new three-tower Veterans Retirement Home, and there is also a new Veterans Administration facility available for the region's health care. All are replacements of facilities destroyed by past storms.
For the residences along the shoreline, all the old mansions that had stood for so many years are gone. What they have in their place does little to add to the scenery as did the dwellings of the past.
Surviving the high winds and salt water are the old live oak trees that stood-up to the storms and still stand as a reminder of what once was. They are as beautiful as ever and will serve as a reminder to all who have enjoyed driving by them of what was there in the past.
There is a spirit of competition in the southern regions that apparently doesn't exist in these parts. It is nothing to see both a Dollar General and Family Dollar store located side-by-side. Their location might be right in town or located a short distance out of town on the major highway.
We didn't stop at any of them to ask why this neighboring situation existed, but there must be a reason.
The late JC Penney always admonished his store managers to stop opposing a competitor's plans to locate next door to his business. Instead, he encouraged it. At least that's how the story goes.
At one of the most attractive casinos in the area, The Palace (which is owned by a Springfieldian, by the way,) a cup of coffee costs $4. The good thing about the price is that a receipt goes with it, which is good for refills until midnight of that day.
Also appreciated by those who frequent the place, it is smoke free, which can be a big feature for a lot of people.
All along the highway on the route home, there were vendors of sweet potatoes. As we got closer to Jackson, Miss., we learned the possible reason for this frequency. While they reminded us of the pecan merchants on I-59 toward Kansas City, we were eventually informed that Jackson is the sweet potato capital of the world -- not just of this country, but the world. That claim might somewhat resemble Barry County's claim back in Fescue Festival Days of being the Kentucky Fescue Capital of the World. It's obvious you can stake a claim to any such status if you work hard enough for it.
The southland has come up with another facility to serve the traveling public with a catchy name that is sure to last. It is the Double Quick Stops for fuel and other services.
When passing one, it is impossible to avoid another feature the store has to offer, and that is fried chicken. There is a particular brand name that seems to attract the most customers, but that brand is not yet available in this area.
There are a couple of important holidays this month; Mother's Day is Sunday and Memorial Day is Monday, May 26. Neither should be overlooked.
Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.